China is crucial to the success of talks on reining in North Korea's nuclear
programs, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday as he urged Beijing to
take a more active role in protecting human rights.
In a speech to students at Peking
University, Annan said he spent "a good deal of time" talking with Chinese
leaders about the nuclear crises in
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
meets China's State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan (not in picture) in Diaoyutai
State Guest House in Beijing May 22, 2006.
Iran and North Korea and the importance of nuclear non-proliferation.
"As host of the six-party talks on the nuclear issue in the Korean peninsula,
China has played a crucial role," he said.
"China's ongoing leadership will be essential to ensure that multilateral
diplomatic efforts result in a peninsula free from nuclear weapons. We cannot
allow the current stalemate to continue."
Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator to the talks that also group the
two Koreas, Japan and Russia, is due in Beijing on Wednesday in a renewed push
to restart the negotiations.
The delegations agreed in principle in September that Pyongyang would
dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for aid, security assurances and
improved diplomatic ties.
But the last session in November ended without progress and North Korea has
refused to take part since then.
China, which has veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council,
has also been at the center of diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to stop its
nuclear research, which Western powers believe is aimed at making weapons.
China and Russia have resisted Western efforts to impose tougher measures
such as sanctions on Iran.
Annan also raised the thorny topic of human rights, calling them a "crucial
set of norms to uphold" and urging China, whose record on the subject is a
chronic subject of international scrutiny, to play a responsible role as a
member of the new Human Rights Council.
"Now it is time for China and other members of the council to find ways to
ensure the protection of the human rights of all people in every country in the
world," he told the students.
The watchdog group Human Rights in China had urged Annan to raise the issue,
saying the climate for lawyers, petitioners, journalists and religious
practitioners was deteriorating.
Annan arrived in Beijing on Friday on the third leg of an Asian tour, having
already been to South Korea and Japan.
He said the three Northeast Asian powers, whose ties have been strained over
issues stemming from Japan's World War Two occupation of the Korean peninsula
and parts of China, could improve relations by working together in areas such as